DNR official: Strong walleye fishing on Mille Lacs not a sign of healthy population

Brian Hammarsten of Minnetrista unhooks a walleye.
Brian Hammarsten of Minnetrista unhooks a walleye he caught on Lake Mille Lacs on July 5, 2017.
Kirsti Marohn | MPR News file

This has been one of the most restrictive seasons for walleye fishing on on Lake Mille Lacs in history. Only catch-and-release was allowed this summer, and even that was banned for more than a month.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says its a necessary step to protect the walleye population. But that's angered anglers and local business owners, who say the fishing has been top-notch.

But that doesn't necessarily mean the population is healthy and thriving, the DNR says.

"It's very common, especially in sport fishing, for catch rates not to be related to abundance," said Don Pereira, the agency's state fisheries chief. "We're having issues with invasive species, and impacts on how much natural food is being created for walleye on the lakes so the fish are quite often in a pretty hungry state, which can really drive up angler catch rates."

Next month, the DNR will do its annual survey of fish populations in Mille Lacs. That survey helps determine just how much fish can be harvested next year.

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